Marks & Spencer’s ‘Made Without Dairy’ chocolate is manufactured by Kinnerton’s, who operate a nut-free factory. And yet the M&S labelling for the products carry a nut warning.
The warning is “Not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods”.
Why is this? I tried to find out.
I first asked M&S on the 6th November. A response came on the 10th:
“Whilst they [the chocolate bars] are produced with Kinnerton, which is a nut free site, we cannot 100% guarantee due to manufacturing methods that they are 100% nut free, and therefore aren’t able to label them as so”
I’m getting a little tired of “we can’t 100% guarantee” disclaimers, but anyway. On the same day, I asked at what point cross-contamination might occur?
After some chasing, a response came on 28th November:
“M&S have a clear position on the management of allergens within our supplying sites and we have developed our own set of procedures to support the ‘Made Without’ range. Unlike the Kinnerton ‘free from’ range, the M&S ‘Made Without’ chocolate bar was purely focused on providing a Dairy Free chocolate option ... Any product that goes into our ‘Made Without’ range must be signed off by the M&S Allergy Action Group, irrespective of the control procedures already in place at suppliers, such as Kinnerton. This is an independent M&S validation and approval to ensure customer protection, and does not in any way undermine the safety or integrity of the Kinnerton Free From Range or Nut Safety Promise.”
On the same day, I responded:
“If the independent M&S Allergy Action Group finds that a nut warning is necessary, it does seem to indicate a difference in opinion on Kinnerton’s safety protocols?”
Next day response from M&S:
“As mentioned previously, M&S takes the management of nuts and the use of alibi labelling very seriously and the independent validation does not in any way undermine our suppliers’ safety protocols.”
Frankly - yes it does. I told them the following:
“FSA guidance on alibi warnings states they ‘should be used after a thorough risk assessment and where there is considered to be a real risk to the consumer’... either M&S consider there to be a real risk to those with nut allergies - which certainly would demonstrate at least a partial lack of confidence in Kinnerton’s protocols - or else M&S have chosen not to follow FSA guidelines on this occasion - which, I acknowledge, are guidelines, not dictats”
The press officer said she would have to put that through to the corporate team - but that was two weeks ago, and I’ve not heard back.
I emailed Carline Dennis at Kinnerton. Here’s what she said on the 2nd of this month:
“There has been no change to the procedures used to manufacture the Kinnerton allergen free range or in fact the integrity and safety of the claims made on these products. The M&S ‘Made without Dairy’ bar was developed with M&S to provide a plain chocolate to their consumers without the risk of milk contamination that is often present during the manufacture of plain chocolate products. The product and controls in place were reviewed by the M&S Allergy Action Group before being approved for the ‘Made without Dairy’ claim. M&S have a clear set of guidelines for the delivery of a ‘made without’ product and for this product the only allergen risk reviewed was milk in order to satisfy a very specific need … ”
"Are you saying that M&S simply didn't risk review for nut / peanut allergies? They simply chose not to? The warning is 'not suitable for nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods' - what can this possibly refer to if 'there has been no change to procedures'?
No reply to that yet.
It's all a bit unsatisfactory. If M&S did not review the nut risk, then the wording of their defensive label remains a mystery. And why are Kinnerton apparently so unbothered by the implied criticism of their protocols?
I’m sorry to say I’ve been doing a lot of giving up lately. I'm afraid here's another one. Roll on Christmas.
Edited on 16th December to add: I lied. If you're landing on this page, there's a Part II to this case right here.
Labels: 'may contain', free from food, labelling, nut allergy, peanut allergy